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Brunswick School Board rejects budget cuts, OKs 4% increase

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Brunswick School Board rejects budget cuts, OKs 4% increase

BRUNSWICK — The School Board on Wednesday approved a $36.2 million education budget for the 2015 fiscal year, after rejecting several cuts that were proposed over the past two weeks.

The result is a budget virtually unchanged from one recommended at an April 16 workshop. It could result in a property tax increase of 4.4 percent.

The vote was 7-3.

The budget, a 4 percent increase from this year, is proposed to be funded by a nearly $23.9 million appropriation from the town and just over $10 million in state aid. The remaining revenue will come from projected surpluses, tuition paid by students coming from other districts, and other sources.

At the April 16 workshop, Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski explained his spending recommendations, which included about $700,000 in proposed reductions for personnel, technology and other types of expenses.

But several board members asked for further reductions, knowing that voters will likely be asked to approve spending $24 million on a replacement for Coffin Elementary School next year.

On Wednesday, Perzanoski returned to detail the additional cuts, most of which were in non-personnel expenses.

They included a $41,000 reduction on technology spending, a cut of $36,000 in the facilities budget and a savings of $43,000 that would be achieved by postponing the planned replacement of textbooks and other materials at Brunswick Junior High School.

Board members balked at the new reductions.

"I'm worried about getting penny-wise but pound-foolish," board member Chris McCarthy said. "Then, instead of a couple hundred grand (in spending) we'll be talking a couple million because we haven't been pre-investing."

Board member Janet Connors said, "Technology seems like an easy place to cut the budget, but I can see why it's necessary to do some catching up."

Sue Woodhams, the School Department's director of technology integration, opposed further cuts, explaining that increases in technology spending are necessary and also have been offset by savings in other areas.

"We're asking for basic equipment ... and really what we're doing is catching up on things that weren't done six or seven years ago," she said.

But board member Rich Ellis wanted to see a "clear picture" of the savings, and felt the board should rein in tech spending after allowing increases in recent years.

"It's going to overtake the rest of the budget," Ellis said. "I'm not anti-technology ... but a 9 percent increase (in spending) year-over-year is not sustainable."

With only one public comment, an amendment to restore the cuts was passed, and board members then adopted the revised budget. Ellis, along with board members Corinne Perreault and William Thompson, voted in the minority.

The Town Council was scheduled to begin reviewing the School Board's recommended budget on Thursday, and must sign off on it by the end of May. Voters will then have their say, deciding whether to accept the budget in a June 10 referendum.